The ancient Agora was the economic and political centre of Athens for several centuries. Today, the lushly overgrown grounds with the stone remains seemed almost idyllic.
In ancient Greece, the Ancient Agora at the foot of the famous Acropolis in Athens was the central marketplace of the capital of Greece. Here, the ancient Greeks not only went about their shopping, but also conducted administrative business. Among other things, the citizens of Athens gathered here for the elections and votes of the world's first democracy.
The Greek scribe Eubulos recorded as early as the 4th century BC that one could acquire just about anything in the agora, from apples and grapes to laws and bailiffs to testimony and accusations.
Tip: The Ancient Agora should not be confused with the Roman Agora, which is only a few hundred metres to the east of the Ancient Agora and is most notable for its Tower of the Winds.
PICTURES: Ancient Agora in Athens
Sights of the Ancient Agora in Athens
In addition to the public buildings, there were also numerous sanctuaries on the Ancient Agora. This was revealed by the excavations that started in 1931. According to archaeological findings, there were once about 30 buildings on the Agora, but not all of them could yet be given a meaning. Today, only two buildings of the Ancient Agora remain.
Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaisteion)
The Temple of Hephaestus in the Ancient Agora was built in the 5th century BC and dedicated to the Greek god of blacksmithing and patron saint of craftsmen. Perhaps that is why his temple is almost completely preserved to this day.
Each of the 34 columns is still standing upright today, and the entablature and large parts of the roof are still original. This makes the Hephaisteion the best-preserved temple in all of Greece. After serving as a church from the 7th century until 1834 and then as Athens' first archaeological museum, it was never demolished.
Stoa of Attalos - Agora Museum
The second prominent building on the Ancient Agora is the imposing Stoa of Attalos. It was not nearly as well preserved as the Temple of Hephaestus, but was reconstructed by archaeologists in 1955. The impressive building is 116m long and 20m wide and today houses the Agora Museum.
The original Stoa originated around 150 BC. In its extensive porticoes, people traded, politicised and philosophised at that time. Today, the museum primarily houses finds from the ancient agora, including countless shards of clay with names carved on them, which were used for the so-called "shard court". In the course of this, the citizens of Athens could vote once a year with the help of the shards of clay which politician would be sent into exile for a year.
Holy Apostle Church
At the south-eastern corner of the Ancient Agora is the 11th century Byzantine church of Agii Apostoli. It is the only surviving building of the Ancient Agora from the Middle Ages. The ornate church was reconstructed in the 1950s. It is not particularly large, but has an interesting architecture with a cruciform floor plan. Inside, there is a marble altar and wall paintings from the 17th century.
Tip: The Ancient Agora is included in the Athens Combi Ticket, which is valid at a reduced price for four days for the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and its Museum, Kerameikos, the Dionysus Theatre, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Roman Agora and is available at each of these sights.